LIVE BURIAL – Curse of the Forlorn (2022)REVIEW

They feed upon life’s potentiation, hungered for defeat more pronounced than death itself. Unshackled from corporeal form by occult experimentation and left to exact a vengeance not-their-own in transient wander between worlds, the wraithlike presence of the Forlorn seeks and strikes high-value targets by nature. Eh, a bit of embellished Drangleic lore for anyone paying attention and a not-too uncommon inspiration for Newcastle upon Tyne, England-based death metal quintet Live Burial who we find fully developed into well-focused craftsmen who’d task themselves with fashioning pure death metal up to the standards of pre-’93 acts with the action and proficiency of 80’s extreme metal influence pressing at their backs. Now edging into some slightly more atmospheric and doomed extremes on this third full-length, the classic death metal absolutist sect maintain their signature ex-thrasher borne aggression throughout ‘Curse of the Forlorn‘. This’ll rightfully serve as a next level of finesse from the band revealed, something a bit different but still very much traditional death metal, not only in terms of composition and performance but with regard to a bigger vision served in idealized form and personality rich render.

For the sake of stating the obvious in an era where these sorts of things are assumed, skimmed of meaning, or simply unspoken most everything Live Burial have released has been tailored to sound a bit like ‘Consuming Impulse‘-era Pestilence and lunge a bit like Asphyx‘ ‘The Rack‘ and/or Morgoth‘s ‘Odium‘ and, to be clear, I suggest this as a point of high praise and admiration rather than a reduction of efforts. While their compositions and sound design hadn’t reached much further beyond those ideals ’til recently they’d notably breathed wretched life into those late 80’s rhythmic ideas from the start, favoring the chaotic and thrash-tunneled gusts of most classic post-‘Leprosy‘ death metal as their efforts stepped into greater rhythmic depth and virtuosic detail with each release. We can look to those old fonts for sound design all we’d like but it’d be fair to say that when their raw-but-reaching second album ‘Unending Futility‘ (2020) arrived Live Burial‘s approach had sophisticated a generation beyond in terms of detail, now inspiring tangential comparisons to cult classics like ‘Hallucinations‘-era Atrocity, at least if we can cross out the staggered ‘Symphonies of Sickness‘ bop of that record. Several decades separated from any number of too obvious ancient references what surfaces on this third album is greater emphasis on atmospheric presentation and more refined, dynamic production values to suit increasingly elaborate craft. If the last album sang in its gloriously flowing element, then this one does so too but, while juggling.

“Despair of the Lost Self” introduces ‘Curse of the Forlorn‘ with the first of many memorable triad circling Schuldiner-esque leads, a rush of crypt-burst keyboard haunt atop a tension-building guitar progression, and a crack into the sort of thrashing death which Live Burial do best. A steady lead-driven melody builds, swells of lead guitar attack from all angles, and the inevitable break into late 80’s Florida style moshable breakdown serve us a damned armful of riffs and a clear message that this is going to be an even bigger, more guitar centric record than the last and one that’ll tend to go many places, proving they can turn on a dime with the best of ’em. Now that they’ve shown us what they do, what they can do, “The Ordeal of Purification” begins making the argument that these folks have songs in mind, ideas that stick in memory or make a strong impression with each spin, such as the near full-stop around ~2:20 minutes in which serves its big evil mid-80’s horror speed metal moment before they throw about three extended solos at us ’til the song grinds back into brutality. There is a wild ride to take here that quickly proves itself almost expressly for folks who know the full breadth of possibilities explored in late 80’s/early 90’s death metal and not just the surface level zeitgeist per the revisionist norm.

Ear-isolated confusional arousal. — If there were any one particular moment that’d struck me as surreal during my time spent with ‘Curse of the Forlorn‘ it’d have to be around the fourth spin, landing on mid-album track “Exhumation and Execution” in the midst of multi-tasking in circles around my office, hardly paying close enough attention. As the song caught my ear I became frustrated thinking to myself that the “damned thing” hadn’t looped on repeat, or, my mp3 player had been set to random play and I’d been listening to the wrong record. Of course it’d hit me right there that Live Burial have pushed their craft outside of the very linear expectations set before and including ‘Unending Futility‘, which had a hint of early prog-death around its gills but little of the psychedelic and gloomed-over coloration which several of these tracks receive by way of a shade of Finnish death or, more broadly speaking, death/doom metal interest. These sorts of movements don’t drastically change what style of music these folks play but instead allow it to arrive in deeper breaths, surreal moments which brace the mind in between faster, heavier attacks. Though death metal’s standard calls for it to be demanding, there is something to be said for a listening experience which finds the right time to throttle its best in waves and knows when to recline in preparation for the next.

Though I’d been thoroughly impressed with the kicking sport of the first half of this record Side B is generally where its at in terms of Live Burial focusing on songs which are slightly more rhythmically involved, thrashing pieces presented with a deeper death-doomed current in a few brief but vital instances. Of course those biggest, most dramatically stated event caught my ear first and foremost (see our premiere of stunning, somehow wildly memorable closer “This Prison I Call Flesh“) but my favorite song on the album is yet somewhat split between “Sepulchre of Collapsed Kingdoms” and the aforementioned “The Ordeal of Purification”. This’d been somewhat vexing as I’d been pulled into some great admiration for what Live Burial do differently throughout my discovery phase of this record yet I’d stuck around for many, many listens due to fealty built with the parts which only slightly expand upon what they do best. It is a good sign that these folks’ve done a fine job of expanding yet not alienating with choices made on ‘Curse of the Forlorn‘, easily reaching the high standards of traditional death metal brutality while venturing off into a darkly mystic path which quickly becomes their own. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Curse of the Forlorn
LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records
RELEASE DATE:September 23rd, 2022

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